DAVID NOVAK - Construction Process

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updated:  Wednesday, October 9, 2013

For years I have been writing about my painting. Thoughts are written immediately as they form in my mind. Because of the informal nature of the writing itself, they are kaleidoscopic. I feel comfortable when I write this way. It is like recording a "mental" conversation with myself. I don't pay much attention to connections as I write. To me the most important aspect of this exercise is to establish the ideas as quickly as possible. Connections get organized through editing.

Assembly of a painting is identical in practice. Composition is not organized during early work sessions by choice. It is open, disconnected, and kaleidoscopic. The arrangement hopefully illuminates the original idea through editing. Collectively speaking, connection between paintings is often obscure. Diversity in output is the mother of this invention. Unless I am constructing a cycle of paintings exploring a single theme, most paintings exist alone in exploring an idea. I rarely work an idea as a group of paintings.

Update 10/9/13: In 2008 I began to think about making some changes to my studio practice. Not that I was getting tired of concentration only in painting and drawing, I was feeling that this programming had become mannered. Oh, since the late 1990's I simultaneously was making digital art. This process never left the building. In late 2008 I decided to put painting and drawing, as such, on hold. I then added plaster sculpture to my art making program. I had never before created art work in three dimensions. This new aesthetic I find is very exciting to work with. Sculpture has been added to my studio practice. Also in 2008, I decided to work with digital photography in a manner other than a recording device for my paintings and other studio related duties. Move my photo imaging into my art making process. This has been a very exciting and new adventure. In a sense, digital imaging, photographic related and non-photo based work has begun to replace painting. As I write this, painting will never completely leave my studio practice. I am a trained painter and all of my art making comes from this background.

From Abstract Expressionism (especially Automatism) and Zen Philosophy, I appropriate the position that "touch" injects "energy" into a painting. Intense focus on the act of painting and the materials involved, creates a magic condition where "energy" leaves the artist's body through the hand and fingers, through the tool touching the canvas, enters the paint and color where this life force then resides.

I often feel that continued work on a painting will destroy its sense of reality. I know through experience, if I don't keep touching the painting it won't birth either. A touch may exist as a click of time; being with a painting alone; no brushes, no paint -- just mind connections. Constant touching over time sets an image for a painting. Painting, to me, is nothing more and nothing less than a collection of touches.

It is not the number of touches that count. Often a painting exists when a few touches have transpired. Often many touches are needed to get this job done. The numbers are unimportant. What is important? When the touch is made, it must embody the entire soul and energy within the artist at that magic moment. The electricity must be high voltage.

Update 10/9/13: Improvisation, chance, automatism, and Zen continue to play a very active roll in my art making process. Obviously touch plays a big roll in my sculpture. Touch doesn't play the same kind of roll in my digital work. Digital, for the most part, is a non-tangible. It stays within the virtual world almost all its life. It becomes a tangible only when an image is printed onto a physical substrate. This new reality took me some time to feel comfortable with. Adding digital photography to my studio practice open many doors into how to build differences into virtual imaging. The possibilities here are enormous.

Space, Focus, Technique, Medium
Image Space
Space is intuitively stated. Sometimes definition is simple or complex. All space lies in a zone of abstraction of invented color, line, and plane structures.

The central theme is color and shape. A secondary issue is tactility and texture. It has always been my preference to keep the paint film as thin as possible for as long as possible. Unless I want to include a textured area in a painting, texture rarely plays a prime roll in creating a painting. Obviously as I paint out an area, new layers must cover the old. Sometimes thick opaque paint is required. I will concede to a tactile quality [texture] if the painting emerges in this direction. Often I will introduce a "play-off" in the same painting between texture and smoothness, sharp edge against soft edge, and thin areas of paint next to thick areas of paint. Interesting color breaks are also used. I like the jumps in color or texture continuity that occur in a painting after scraping-out or painting out an area; often using masking tape as an aid.

My curiosity about various tools that can be used to manipulate paint is very important. I use assorted sizes and types of brushes, spatulas, scrapers, palette knives, towels, rags, fingers, spraying equipment.

All paintings are created lying flat using a saw-horse-like easel.

The unique nature of a medium defines how it is manipulated. Each medium has its own voice which needs to be stated and explored alone and in combination.

Paint additives like wax, plaster, marble dust, sand, saw dust, paper, cloth is often used. Some additives work with one medium and not with another. Experimentation sorts out what stuff works and doesn't work.

Update 10/9/13: For the most part the discussion here is much the same as before. I would simply add digital imaging and sculpture to this mix. As media change, so the methodologies required change to manipulate it. Also plaster sculpture and digital imaging as art processes open paths to new subjects and how to compose them.


My paintings are: 1) Subjective Abstractions, 2) Esoteric Abstractions, and 3) Digital Abstractions, computer generated images based on 1) and 2).

Subjective Abstractions: Consist of five subcategories.

1) GEOMETRIC - Characterized by large shape patterns organized with defined shape edges often hard-edged and straight modulated color interiors. Color is often bright and saturated, full hues. Contrasts available are thick/thin paint film, hard/soft shape edges, flat/modulated colors, some accents of Abstract Expressionism (AE) gesture with brush or palette knife, knife/brush.

2) DRAW-DOWN - Characterized by thin layering of color using taping knives and palette knives to draw-down or spread paint onto canvas. Strong color modulations by random mixing of color on canvas and by over layering with thin layers of additional color mixes and glazes/scumples. Contrasts available are large shape/small shape, hard/soft edge, dry areas/wet areas, geometric/gestural.

3) GESTURAL - Characterized by strong linear elements in color -- little or no use of defined shape patterns focus allover gestural structure (traditional AE) in image. Brush and knife marks allowed to hold their position. Focus on short paint quality. Technical focus is to keep paint application as thin for as long as possible. However, most examples of this approach end up being quite textured and worked over for long periods. Contrasts available are thick/thin line and small shape structures, brush/knife, dry/wet brush or knife marks, hard/soft shape edges.

4) POINTILLIST - Characterized by variable dot-like structures in an allover image structure. Extensive use of brush or knife. Quite evident in small oil papers and small (under 30") canvases. On canvas these dot-like structures exist as large-to-med. 1/2" to 1-1/2" irregular color shapes often elongating into wide line-like color structures. Contrasts available are thick/thin small shape structures, brush/knife, dry/wet brush or knife marks, hard/soft shape edges, geometric/gestural in image quality.

5) COMBO - Characterized by a mix of themes 1 thru 4 and incorporate all characteristics listed thus far.

Esoteric Abstractions:
Characterized by an attitude of experiment and the new. Color, application, and design are not mainstream. Often whimsical and automatistic in approach. Used as a method to break blocks or just to try something different. All primary themes at one time existed or began as an esoteric invention.

Digital Abstractions:
Characterized by the same themes and attitude as Subjective Abstractions and Esoteric Abstractions, plus the following unique qualities.

1) JUMPS - Opportunity to explore my ideas on jumps between image elements; very easy to do with present software available.

2) COLLAGE - Digital collage; taking pieces or sections from different pieces (graphic files) and creating new pieces. Easier to mix drawing and painting techniques electronically than it is physically with pencil and brush. There is a smoothing or blending that happens electronically that seamlessly combines these two; linear thinking and planular thinking.

3) MULTIPLE IMAGING - Exploring multiple imaging in the same piece. Making a copy of a visual element and creating an overall image using this copy; cut-and-paste. The variations are endless.

4) SOFTWARE - Exploring various imaging tools available in drawing and painting software. Imaging manipulation is easier, faster, different, and unique. There are ways to manipulate an image electronically that cannot be done in a physical painting. But, the differences can be relational
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